Way back when we used to run the Javalooyah Coffee House (don’t mock me…it was the 90’s), we used to provide a venue for the burgeoning punk and hardcore bands, most of whom were Christians. It was pretty common that when when a band would play, midway through their set one of the band members would take the mic and offer a few words about his or her faith. It was always pretty awkward and uncomfortable for everyone involved – but I was always moved and proud of these kids for being brave enough to do that. One night a lanky bass player with Eminem hair color (not from the band pictured above) got up to the mic and started his plea with “If you’ll just come to Jesus and give your life to him, he’ll make all your problems just go away.”
I looked at my coffee mug and wondered if I could throw it with enough accuracy to knock him out and get him away from that microphone. I didn’t though. Obviously I knew he was sincere and was only trying to make his plea for the cause of Christ, but he was representing a fundamentally flawed theology in the process.
I don’t know if it was the whole Charismatic/Word of Faith movement that started this notion, or if its just an extension of basic human desiderata, but too often people operate under the notion that God’s plan for our lives is to eliminate all suffering for us.
Eugene Peterson, in his book Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work wrote: “The biblical revelation neither explains nor eliminates suffering. It shows, rather, God entering into the life of suffering humanity, accepting and sharing the suffering. Scripture is not a program from God providing, step by step, for the gradual elimination of suffering in a series of five-year plans. The suffering is THERE, and where the sufferer is, God is.”
This Sunday we’ll be reading John 16:16-33 where Jesus explains that suffering will be part of our experience – but that through him, we can have a coping and stable life in the midst of it.
In v16-22 Jesus uses the image of a mother and childbirth to illustrate one way in which we can remain stable in suffering (which is awesome, since we’ll be reading this on Mothers Day). His point has to do with end results. How can a consideration of the end of the story be a help in stabilizing us during present troubles? Here’s something to ponder: What was the source of the woman’s sorrow in Jesus’ illustration, and what was the source of her joy? Does that tell us anything about the nature and purpose of the hardships we are sometimes faced with?
V23-27 records Jesus for the third time encouraging us to ask for anything in his name. We pointed out that “in his name” isn’t a cosmic credit line but meaning asking according to his plan and purpose. Either way…the invitation to directly communicate is clearly emphasized. How can that play a role in stabilizing our lives during times of trouble?
He concludes this section in v28-33, uttering those famous words “In this world you’ll have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world”. How can knowing that Jesus has run this course and conquered it enable us to stand strong?
Clearly we need to let go of the concept that suffering is somehow an indicator that something is wrong or that God is mad or doesn’t care. Suffering is part of the scene. Lets consider some ways in which we can apply Jesus’ encouragement to our own difficult circumstances – and let’s allow him to shape us in the process! The songs for this Sunday are posted at Facebook and the Hymnal. Hope to see you Sunday!
2 thoughts on “A Stable Life in a Wobbly World”
Interestingly, when I read the first part of this post about the 90’s , I immediately thought oh yea man life was easier back then…but when I really thought about it, I realized it really wasn’t any easier it was just hard in different ways… I ‘m not sure why we think ease should be part of the picture here, maybe it’s all the disney happy endings or hollywood that is always in our face with their seemingly easy and lavish lifestyle’s but clearly cash hasn’t eliminated their suffering either…
I love the mother giving birth analogy. Childbirth is painful (without the drugs anyway) which I wouldn’t know about because when I felt the first labor pain which I just knew I could handle because I am so tough, lol, I screamed for the drugs!! I chose the pain free method!! But I’m sure they did not have that option back then and I imagine women dreaded the pain they would endure in child birth but did it anyway knowing that the joy of their newborn child would totally eclipse the hardship they endured. It kind of reminds me of the old saying No Pain No Gain…Jesus suffered and brought new life to us. Through His pain we gained new life.
We can trust that when we suffer God is shaping new life, new character, new hope in us as well. This is so absolutely comforting!!!
The truth is when periods of ease come it’s easy to drift away from our King, get sidetracked from our mission or prioritize lesser lovers.. Pain keeps us on our knees close to King which is where the only true joy is found..
One last thought, just saw the Amazing Spiderman 2 and thought a piece of Gwen’s graduation speech was totally applicable here…These superhero stories are sooo awesome because we’re all longing for the happy ending that is coming when the real super Hero returns!! So, YES knowing there is a good ending coming Absolutely helps in persevering through these present pains!!!
Anyway, Gwen said and this is not exact but what I am able to remember… it’s easy to have hope when the sun is shining and it’s graduation day but the truth is we will all have dark days at some time or another, there will be times when we will all feel alone…we must become greater than the things we suffer…my wish for you is to become that hope ..
That is the gist of what she said and it is so beautiful…the fact is that it is impossible to have real hope until we have truly been hopeless….It is impossible to give hope to others until we have found that hope ourselves….Jesus is waiting there in our darkest of times in our most painful circumstances, to carry us through to be our comfort and our help, we are truly NEVER alone..He is here to give us His hope…So let’s hold onto it for dear life and instead of waffling through this wobbly world lets do like she said and embody it, reflect His hope into the ever present darkness around us!